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Friday, June 30, 2006

He's Right: It is NOT Whipped Cream

Hot on the heels of last week's introduction of Kate Kane, this week's issue of 52 devotes a couple of pages to another new character--Supernova--who, as you probably know by now, seems to have some pretty strong connections to the story from 1968's World's Finest #178.

That, incidentally, is one of my favorite Silver Age covers, if only for the fact that it looks for all the world like Batman walked in, saw that costume, and then went and got Green Arrow so they could both make fun of it. Superman, meanwhile, seems completely oblivious to the fact that it's the most garish costume ever, instead getting all indignant for the wrong reasons.

No, Superman, it's not that they doubt your abilities as a crimefighter, it's that going out dressed like that is just asking for the wrong kind of attention.

Anyway, you probably know the deal already, which is good, since I forgot this was a two-part story and don't have the second part, which would make any attempt to summarize it pretty worthless once I got to the midpoint. In case you don't, however, here's a quick rundown of the first half:

It's an "Imaginary Story" where Superman--and stop me if you've heard this one--is out in space doing something when he mysteriously loses all of his powers. This leaves him pretty bummed out, so he turns to Batman in his time of need, who does the only appropriate thing when a pal loses everything...

...and socks him right in the jaw.

Because sometimes being a friend means you have to step in and regulate when your friends won't calm their asses down. That's what it means when you're Batman anyway.

Superman understandably gets depressed, but eventually resolves to follow the example set by Batman and Green Arrow--but not the one where you punch your depressed friends in the face. Instead, he resolves to train himself to become a crimefighter despite his lack of powers, and, using a cape given to him on a time travel adventure by Leonardo DaVinci (!), he becomes Nova, and is promptly dropkicked into unconsciousness by bank robbers and dragged to see underworld boss Mr. Socrates, who intends to use the powerless Superman in a plot to kill Batman.

One can only imagine what wonders appear in the second part.

What you might not know, however is that the first four pages of this comic play host to some of the most unintentionally hilarious panels I have ever seen. Because if the purple high-collared costume and "Over the Rainbow" reference on page two weren't quite gay enough, I invite you to feast thine eyes on the actual reason Superman loses his powers:

And finally... wait for it...

My work here is done.

More of the Same:

| Superman and Batman's Night Together |
| Much Like Mr. Weatherbee, You Are Now Freaking Out |

The Master Plan: A Beginner's Guide To Super-Villainy


Have you ever wanted a hidden fortress from which you can plot your evil schemes far from the prying eyes of a world that will soon be sorry it ever mocked you?

Sure! We all do!

Now, with The Master Plan™, you can make this dream a reality! Simply point your browser to CRACKED.com and read today's lesson: Crafting the Perfect Lair! With these insider tips on how to construct your own deathtrap-laden hideout, you'll be dropping your nemesis into a pit of robot sharks in no time!


Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Week in Ink: 6-28-06

HeroesCon is this weekend, and despite the fact that I'm a mere state away from all the action, I won't be attending. Although really, considering that when I went last year I ended up sitting on an ottoman in the hotel bar with a Jack and coke in one hand and a whiskey sour in the other, telling all of my friends they were assholes and loudly expressing a desire to fight the Luna Brothers, this might be a good thing.

Chris Sims, circa June 2005

Besides, if I was going up there I'd have to wake up early, and I wouldn't be able to do my level best to bring you the internet's most awesome comics reviews for the fourth week of June, 2006!


52: Week Eight: I love the cover for this one, and the art for 52 seems to be back on track after the rush job last week, although someone seems to have forgotten that Adam Strange doesn't have any eyes at the moment. Still, it's a pretty enjoyable issue, and although the function of this one seems to revolve more around fleshing out existing plots rather than moving them forward (with the exception of Supernova making his appearance), I imagine that--much like the abrupt cut at the end of the Ralph Dibny/Green Arrow sequence--is the sort of thing you can get away with more easily when your book's hitting the shelves every Wednesday. And on the bright side, Donna Troy and her Magic Floating Volleyball seem to be getting into more recent events, thus heralding the end of that little storytelling expierment gone awry, although I have a paralyzing fear that the explanations of Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis are going to be way longer than they need to be.

Action Comics #840: Seriously, I want you guys to level with me: Am I the only person in the entire world that thinks the movie version of the Fortress of Solitude is a really, really stupid idea? Really: Where's he going to keep the wax statues of all of his friends? Anyway, despite my personal tastes in Kryptonian architecture, I actually enjoyed the heck out of this issue. It's free of the awkward quirks of dialogue that popped up in past installments (like Lois telling Superman to go hurt people), and Pete Woods does a great job with the art. Really, though, my enjoyment is largely due to the fact that Superman and Lex Luthor have a good old-fashioned punchout, and that's the sort of thing I like to see every now and then. Like, say, in a period of two hours and forty minutes, that's something I'd want to see at least once. You might be surprised how often I'm disappointed.

All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #6: This thing might have the most confusing paragraph ever written, in the form of an explanation of the relationships between a Universe, a Multiverse, an Omniverse, and a Megaverse in the entry for The Living Tribunal. But anyway, at this time each month, I usually like to single out one entry from the OHOTMU that goes above and beyond the normal standards of awesome, and I was all set to delve into Machine Man's profile and its conspicuous use of the phrase "kit-bashing" when I saw this guy:

Meet Gideon Mace, who--as you might expect--has a giant spiked ball of titanium attached to his wrist that apparently weighs two hundred and thirty-seven pounds. And apparently that's all it takes for you to think you should fight Luke Cage. Go figure.

Batman #654: I've got to say: Basing the entire plot that's driven the "One Year Later" story from the beginning and will (presumably) have lasting effects for Gotham City on a three year-old miniseries that nobody read? That's got to be one of the ballsiest moves I've seen in a while. It's pretty enjoyable too, although Two-Face seems to be back to an "evil plot involving a pair of Siberian tigers" kind of crazy rather than the "beat your sidekick viciously with a baseball bat" type of crazy that I've come to love, but it's fun regardless.

Blue Beetle #4: Cully Hamner returns after last month's fill-in, and much to my surprise, Blue Beetle seems to be getting better every month. The book seems to have finally hit its stride and fallen into a pretty enjoyable--if unremarkable--clip, although I hate the new costume more and more every time Jaime does something new with it. This time it's giant metal butterfly wings, and they're just not doing it for me. There's a lot to like about the story itself, though, especially the supporting cast, but I don't think it's ever going to end up replacing Impulse as the best DC teen super-hero comic.

Brave New World: It's eighty pages for one dollar, so there's really no reason not to buy this, even if the list of writers on it--with the exception of Gail Simone--reads like my own personal rogues gallery. Everyone pretty much plays true to form, too: Palmiotti and Gray's Freedom Fighters is not about Jonah Hex and is therefore pretty uninteresting; AJ Lieberman's Martian Manhunter doesn't make a lot of sense, much like everything else he's written since he made Harley Quinn even more dismal and incomprehensible than it already was; Bruce Jones's OMAC is interchangeable with his Hulk and Nightwing stories; and Steve Niles stole my girlfriend five times over the course of eleven pages and I didn't even have one to begin with! Judd Winick, of course, wrote the atrocious lines about Billy Batson "bringing it down hard" and "making them feel it" in the preview pages for Trials of Shazam, and while the Brave New World story is fine, I'm not holding my breath for quality there.

The Atom story, though, was surprisingly fun, and I loved the way the narration was structured with the scientists' quotes and the way it all built to a really well-done punchline. Still don't like that new costume, though.

Catwoman #56: It's not like anybody actually needs me to say this, but the Adam Hughes covers for Catwoman have been awesome lately. I've been really looking forward to the Lone Wolf and Cub homage next month, but this week's issue has is one of my favorite covers in recent memory. It's great, and once you get to the inside, that's not half bad either. I've been consistently surprised at how much I'm enjoying Will Pfeifer's stories--not that I ever hated him or anything--and he seems like he's having a lot of fun with characters, especially when it comes to Film Freak. And although it's not much of a challenge when you're up against Paul Gulacy's occasionally horrid art, David Lopez's pencils are by far the best the book has had since they abandoned the Darwyn Cooke/Cameron Stewart style that launched the series. It's consistent, highly enjoyable, and--dare I say it?!--even better than Firestorm!

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #2: While it seems like he's having a lot of fun witih Catwoman, Will Pfeifer's take on the Spectre reads a lot more like he's working out is own annoyances and frustrations with the character through the narrative voice of Cris Allen. That's not necessarily a bad thing--the John Ostrander Spectre series reads the same way in a lot of parts--but it has the side effect of slowing the story to a far slower pace than I think it should have.


Daredevil #86: You have no idea how much I wish this book didn't have a David Finch cover.

Regardless, it's what's inside that counts, and ever since Brubaker and Lark came on, Daredevil has quickly become one of the best comics Marvel's putting out. This issue, though, is the one I've been waiting for ever since the storyline started, because this one--as the very first piece of dialogue says--is where the shit jumps off. I was able to sell three people on this issue today alone just by giving them a generic plot synopsis: Daredevil, the Kingpin, Bullseye, Hammerhead, and The Punisher are all in jail together... and then there's a riot.

That would be pretty exciting no matter what actually happened in the story, but Brubaker and Lark pull it off amazingly well, with the two-fisted action sequences punctuated by some truly phenomenal character moments, where we find out how far Matt Murdock is willing to go to get out of prison and pursue his own brand of justice--and exactly where he'll draw the line. The Punisher moments are fantastic, actually working out even better than I expected. Seriously, when Garth Ennis finally gets tired of telling stories about Frank Castle doling out horrific vengeance on people who really deserve it, I hope we see Brubaker take a stab at the book.

All that, and a last page that's damn near perfect. You should be reading it right now.

Forgotten Realms: Sojourn #3: Just so you know, if you're as bored as I think you are when I go on about these D&D-themed comics with characters named Roddy McGristle, using sentences including words like "chaotic evil" and "ranged attack modifier," you might not want to be here in August when Devil's Due puts out the Eberron comic. My affection for that particular campaign setting and its magical robot men dwarfs my feelings for the Forgotten Realms, so it's entirely probable that I will flip out, name it best of the week, and not shut up about it for days afterward. Just sayin'.

Invincible #33: For some reason, the fact that this issue of Invincible has a little picture of the title character in the UPC box on the cover (even though there's an actual UPC on the back) makes me unreasonably happy. It's a solid comic, too, continuing the story from Marvel Team-Up as Invincible gets blasted into different dimensions by a purple man with an over-large brain. This, for those of you keeping score at home, is what comics are all about, and the way Kirkman keeps upping the stakes with Invincible keeps it very entertaining from month to month.

The Last Christmas #2: Did I mention last month how amusing I thought it was that genre porn websites are advertising on comics? Yes? Okay, good. Moving on.

JLA Classified #23: Attention, Scipio: Vibe is featured prominently on the cover, and is shown breakdancing on page three. You may now cease your letter-writing campaign.

Nextwave #6: Further proving that songs always tell the truth, this issue of Nextwave [Agents of HATE] reveals that yes: Dirk Anger is one crazy mamma-jamma. It also might be the best issue yet, what with large sections wherein Elsa Bloodstone battles HATE's deranged superweapons through the lethal combination of jump-kicks and hitting things with a shovel. Also, Machine Man does things that are easily eight thousand times more exciting than standing around telling the Watcher what middle-aged Super-Heroes are doing. Actually, forget best issue--this might be the best thing ever.

Runaways #17: I'm really running out of ways to talk about how Runaways is one of the prettiest on the stands, but the fact remains: Alphona, Yeung, and Strain work together better than almost any art team out there, and that's a fact. Of course, aside from being a gorgeous comic, the storyline with the new Pride kicks up again, this time with a shock ending that has me questioning whether the spoilerific pages from Marvel Previews really spoiled all that much after all. My money's on yes, but still: I'm not so sure anymore, and as a reader, that's a good way to be.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #7: If you do not like this comic, you do not love life. That is all.

Solo #11: Sergio Aragonés: Over on his weekly MySpace Bulletin, Brian K. Vaughan referred to Solo as "consistently the best comic DC is publishing," which I thought was a little weird. For me, the quality of Solo seems to be based solely in whether or not I like the artist behind it. I liked the Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope, and Mike Allred issues a heck of a lot, but the rest of them left me completely cold. Still, though, inconsistency is hardly a concern when it's Sergio Aragonés, who is always amazing. The stories are funny and fascinating, but although I like Mark Evanier a lot usually, I could've done without the story where he relentlessly bashes the idea that a guy who dresses up like a bat to fight criminals might not be the most stable guy in the world, something I've seen him do before with a similar lack of enjoyment. But considering that you also get Sergio's true-life stories and a history of the Irish soldiers who fought for Mexico, it's a reasonable trade-off.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19

X-Factor #8: This is the book that keeps proving month in and month out that when Peter David is good, he is very good. The way he crafts the stories with these random-but-interconnected events that seem to funnel through Layla Miller--who spends the entire issue sitting on a curb reading Ayn Rand and having an amazing conversation with Quicksilver, fending off his insanity with the tenets of objectivism. Steve Ditko would be proud.

Young Avengers #12: So, for the record: The Young Avengers and the New Avengers--featuring Spider-Man's good costume--team up and slug it out with two different alien races who are also battling each other in the skies above Manhattan. So yeah. I loved it.


Edu-Manga: Anne Frank: My mother has been teaching The Diary of Anne Frank to 8th Graders for years, and yet I'm pretty sure she's never thought of using a book where Astro Boy narrates the story--And if there's a beter way than that, I'd like to see it. I mean, I guess you could probably just read the original story, but that probably doesn't have a picture of Astro Boy defending the very concept of Judaism from hopping-mad swastikas:

Eternals by Jack Kirby HC: The fact that the cover says "STILL only $75!" is almost funny enough to offset the fact that this thing actually costs $75. Still, it's a big old slab of mid-70s Kirby, and while I could read the New Gods all day (and really ought to get around to doing that), I've never been able to sit down and do the same with the Eternals. But now, should the mood strike me, I've got it all.

Plus, as you probably noticed, it involves THE TOMB OF THE SPACE GODS. Excitement!

Mail Order Ninja v.1: I'll cop to ordering this based solely on the title, but it actually turned out to be pretty entertaining, especially for a six-dollar price tag. Young Timmy McAlister loves Ninjas--as well he should--and has the fortune to be living in a world where you can win the service of an elite invisible assassin for an entire year from the equivalent of the Things You Never Knew Existed catalog. Hilarity, along with at least one attempt at ritual suicide, ensues. Every character comes from the cookie-cutter mold of a standard children's book, and while it doesn't take the kind of risks that would put it in the same class as, say, Spiral Bound, the risks it does take with the kid's book formula turn out pretty well more often than not, and it ends up actually being a solid read that's good for the kids. Assuming that the kids like unstoppable shadow warriors, which they should.


DC: The New Frontier Blackhawk Action Figure

Justice League Season 2 DVD

Superman: The Animated Series Season 2 DVD
: Both of these DVD sets feature something that always makes everything better: A big frigg'n fight with Darkseid.

"Had I known the death of one human would pain you so much, I would have killed more...
And kill more I shall."

That guy is rad.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Just One More...

...and then I promise I'll stop talking about the Champions for at least two days.

Seriously, though. Check this out:

First of all: "BUH-TWOOM!" Clearly, that is one of the all-time great sound effects of history.

Second, and my favorite thing about that one: the caption, which reads like Bill Mantlo was so surprised at his own ridiculously awesome sound effect that he had to stop the narration to swear. That, my friends, is powerful writing.

Third, and finally: Ivan (on the right there) is totally freaking out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Champions: Pure Comics Genius

Whoever thought a super-team like the Champions was a good idea was very, very wrong.

It was an awesome idea.

I've mentioned them a couple of times over the past week, but in case you're just joining us, the Champions are quite possibly the worst team in Marvel Comics history, composed of what seems like a random grouping of Marvel characters that weren't realy doing anything else at the time.

There's Iceman and Angel, who got shoved out of the X-Men to make room for some guy called Wolverine; Ghost Rider, seen here in his whiny Legion of Monsters days wherein he rode the Skull Cycle and had to deal with his head bursting into flames anytime danger was near; Hercules, whose major accomplishments involve drunken brawls with real super-heroes; and, fresh from her breakup with Daredevil, the bewitching Black Widow.

Incidentally, aside from a lone scene where she's lounging on a beach in a bikini pondering whether or not to go save Hercules from being pressganged into marriage, the Black Widow always appears in her costume, a fetching black leather full body ensemble with dart launchers on her wrists. She wears this even when she's on a job interview to become UCLA's new Russian professor, and that is weird.

Weirder still, however, is the fact that in what can only be called a misguided attempt to pass as a civilian, she elects to put normal clothes on on top of her costume, despite the fact that a skirt and fashionable blouse do little to hide the fact that you're wearing a full-body black leather catsuit underneath--and in fact, actually make it kinda creepy.

Seriously, Tony Isabella: What's that all about?

Anyway, that's the lineup. And while the Defenders get a lot of flak for being one of the worst teams ever, that's a team that has the Hulk, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, and the frigg'n Sub-Mariner, and those four guys are badass. Even the minor-league version of the team had a female Thor analog with pigtails and a sword, which is probably one of the greatest character ideas ever.

The Champions, meanwhile, have two part-time third-string Avengers and what essentially amounts to three scrubs. And considering that Chris Claremont pits them against a group of super-strong retarded hobos in Champions #3, that pretty much makes them the spiritual predecessor to Nextwave.

Regardless, even without the issues where Bill Mantlo first introduced the world to the magic that is Swarm, it's my kind of comic, and by that I mean that there is a lot of punching. So what better to shed light on the unappreciated genius of the Champions than with a look at the astounding sound effects:

Wait one second. I was willing to just roll along with "CRAM!," but the sound of the Black Widow kicking someone in the head is "BUNCH!"? Holy crap that is awesome.

The Champions: Because you're not going to see someone get hit with a lamppost to the sound effect of "SWATT!" anywhere else.

Belive me. I've looked.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Book Review: The Justice Riders

Mostly, I talk about comics here on the ISB, but that's more of a product of my obsessive nature than an actual rule for the website. After all, every now and then, something comes along in some other medium that is so ludicrously awesome that I have to talk about it.

Chuck Norris's new novel, The Justice Riders is one of them.

Admittedly, the internet reached critical mass for Chuck Norris jokes about three months ago, but trust me: This thing is mind-blowing. It is, however unintentional, the most hilariously over-the-top book I have ever read, thus making it the prose equivalent of Skateman. So bear with me through the groans, won't you?

Anyway, if you've ever been watching The Octagon and wished there was a little more reading involved, this is the book for you. And no, your eyes do not decieve you: It took Chuck Norris and three other people to write this book, presumably because seeing more than a third of Chuck's original manuscript would leave any other man blind and possibly deaf.

It is, of course, not to be confused with the Chuck Dixon/J.H. Williams III 1997 Elseworlds one-shot of the same name. It is, in fact, not a comic book at all, which means my usual technique of scanning panels and writing jokes to go along with them isn't going to work this time.

I'm going to have to go back to the crayons.

[Note: Again, all apologies to Rich Burlew. And for the record, Ezra Justice does not actually roll around 1865 with twin uzis. But really, he might as well.]

The Cast

Chuck Norris is Ezra Justice! Or at least, that's how it happened in my head while I was reading. Justice--or as I like to call him, Champ Goodguy--is your typical Chuck Norris honorable badass character, this time set against the backdrop of the Civil War, where he's tapped by General Sherman to lead an elite strike team of his own special forces operatives on covert missions.

Let's run through that one more time: An elite strike team of special forces operatives. During the Civil War.

Still with me? Good.

Said strike team is made up of the following archetypes soldiers:

Nathaniel "Big Nate" Yorke, a devout Christian and former slave who was once owned by Justice's family. But since Ezra's such a swell guy, they're actually best friends, and there's even a part where upon seeing Ezra show up, Nate runs out to give his "best friend and former owner" a big hug.

Wow. I'm pretty sure David Sedaris put it best when he said, "I think history has proven that something usually comes between slavery and friendship, a period of time marked not by cookies and quiet times beside the fire but by bloodshed and mutual hostility."

Next up, Carlos and Roberto Hawkins, Gypsy twin brothers making their way through the world as conmen and pickpockets who also happen to be explosive experts. They are, in fact, so skilled that in addition to inventing the Satchel Charge in 1863, they are able to sneak into enemy camps and rig it with landmines and sundry explosives that result in no casualties, just a demoralizing annoyance.

Harry Whitecloud, half-Sioux tracking expert who, despite being educated as a doctor at Princeton, "occasionally made a mess of his adopted language" (page 19!). He's ridiculously stereotyped, and the book's just long enough that by the time the climax rolls around, you've forgotten that he uses a bow and arrow instead of a rifle.

And if you don't think his arrows get sticks of the twins' dynamite tied to them at some point, you clearly have not been paying attention.

Handling sniping duties and bass guitar is Reginald Bonesteel, British sharpshooter, expatriate (having been kicked out of the Queen's personal bodyguard for his curious indiscretions), and six-time winner of the North American Manliest Name Competition (1859-1866).

And finally, rounding out the cast is Shaun O'Banyon, recovering alcoholic Irishman who, despite being a tough as nails boxer, has a sensitive heart of gold and talks about going home to his wife all the time. So it really comes as no surprise whatsoever when he's stabbed through the heart by Ezra's nemesis, Mordecai Slate.

Yes, Mordecai Slate. Because apparently, "Evil McStone" is slated to appear in the sequel.

Regardless, Voldemordecai over here is the leader of a ruthless band of Confederate renegades known as The Death Raiders, and as you might expect, this leads him into quite a conflict with Our Hero. Especially when he tries to shoot Justice in the opening chapter, completely unaware that by law, all Men of Action must keep a pocketwatch, bible, cigarette case, flask, or other small object capable of deflecting bullets in their breast pocket at all times.

He ends up having a showdown with Justice at the end, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll let you figure out who wins that one yourself.

The Plot

The book essentially reads exactly like you'd expect from something with the name "Chuck Norris" on the cover, up to and including the multiple explosions that kick off the first chapter, only with a weirdly pervasive proselytizing at every opportunity. It's an odd, rambling story wherein the heroes wisecrack their way through actual pieces of history--like the laugh riot that was Andersonville--often to the tune of excruciating detail. There is, for example, a detailed history of Clinton, Missouri crammed in there, and a lengthy chapter on riverboat boilers that I really could've done without.

All you need to know? Chuck Norris--sorry, Ezra Justice roundhouse kicks a Confederate soldier to death on page twelve.

[Note: This, on the other hand, totally happens exactly as I've drawn it.]

Defining Moment

At one point, the Justice Riders find themselves aboard the Sultana, a historical riverboat, when the boilers go kaboom. In any other book a massive explosion and the ensuing tragedy would be the highlight of the night, but in The Justice Riders, that's just how we get things started. Because once he's off the boat, Lone Wolf McQuade--sorry, Ezra Justice comes face-to-face with the ship's mascot, Chops.

That's right.

This is a book where Chuck Norris punches out an alligator in the middle of the Mississippi River.

Beat that, Ken Burns.

The ISB Total Internet Domination Update



My Master Plan for complete subjugation of the internet has now advanced to its next phase! Tremble, cretins, as I dispense my comedy on a myriad of websites!

Today on CRACKED.com, you'll find an article written in the indomitably incredible ISB style, detailing Five Scenes You Won't Be Seeing in Superman Returns!

And of course, there are the fine folks over at Prism, who let me write columns where I blow the lid off the gay subtext of old comics, despite the fact that I totally love the ladies. If you haven't already, check out my reviews of The Hoard of Midas Moran, and--in case you missed it--my first column for them, Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires!

Go read them. I'll wait. And keep your eyes on the Bonus Content section of the sidebar for future off-site hilarity.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Profiles in Courage: The Black Dwarf

Since my second contribution to Prism's "Queer Eye On Comics" feature went up today--wherein I take on the slightly homoerotic subtext of otherwise two-fisted Western action hero The Gay Desperado--I figured now might be a good time to take a look at the other features from 1964's Danger Comics #12.

There are, after all, four reprinted Golden Age stories in there, and each one's ridiculous in its own special way. But really, they'd have to achieve some kind of Mantloesque level of nonsense if they wanted to out-crazy the story pictured on the cover.

The Black Dwarf!

Because there is no greater high concept for a character than "What if the Shadow was only three foot six?" Although really, he's not black, and considering that he's often depicted as standing the same height as other characters and knocking people on the back of the head with his pistol, I've got serious doubts as to whether he's actually a dwarf.

Regardless, he is pretty short, and apparently spends his time running around in the comically oversized trenchcoat and cape that make him look like a slightly more sinister version of the already-creepy Yellow Kid, doing his best to stick it to the mob.

Here's how it all works, according to what I've been able to piece together from this seven-page story:

The Black Dwarf, pint-size scourge of the Underworld, is in actuality "Shorty" Wilson, who--despite standing somewhere below 4'10"--apparently had a promising career in the world of professional football as an "All-American End," which sort of makes him 1945's equivalent of Rudy. But for some reason that remains a mystery to this day, Shorty retires from pro ball and turns his allegedly considerable talents to fighting crime, assisted by his Dirty Dozenish gang of former criminals.

Said gang includes Arsenic, shrill-voiced former "Queen of the Blackmail Racket"; The Human Fly, whose abilities allow him to get to high places in far more time than it would take if he used the stairs; and explosives expert and Jimmy Olsen simulacrum Nitro.

In this mind-melting installment of the Black Dwarf's adventures, we find Shorty and the gang hot on the trail of "Tiger," a mobster suspected of flooding the city with counterfiet bills, but as it turns out, Tiger's just a pawn in the game of some other mastermind. And in order to catch that guy, The Black Dwarf and company are going to have to weave an incredible tapestry of over-the-top mid-forties slang that can only be read in a staccato gangster-movie Brooklyn accent.

Case in point:


And of course....

And those are sequential panels. And incidentally, see what I mean about him not being a dwarf? In that last panel, he's standing on a lower stair and he's hunched over dragging an unconscious mobster, and he's still almost as tall as Human Fly there. I mean really, when your entire character concept is The Black Dwarf, he should probably be pretty short.

Still, with Doc Harvell evading G-Men and flooding the market with phony cash, random panel-to-panel changes in height are the least of Shorty's worries. But after casually murdering a couple of thugs, swinging from a chandelier while his girlfriend gets smacked around, and hanging Doc Harvell by a noose "till he stops kickin'," everything works out okay, and the Black Dwarf gets to take his rightful place in history as the second-greatest midget crimefighter of all-time.

Shorty Wilson, alias The Black Dwarf

More Fun-Size Shennanigans:
| The Terror of Super-Villain Sidekickery: Gaggy Gagsworthy |
| The Haunted Tank |
| The Vagabond |
| The Tiger Man |
| Banjo |
| The Hypno-Hustler |

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Bat: Making Catchphrase History

You know, when your title character looks vaguely uncomfortable on the cover to the comic, it might be time to rethink your costume design.

Such is the case with The Bat, pictured here by Dave Dorman, studiously avoiding making eye contact with the reader and clutching a woman who appears to be thoroughly disinterested.

In case you're wondering what that dude's deal is--and with a mask like that, how could you not be--I'll explain. Created by Mark Wheatley (of Frankenstein Mobster fame) and Rich Shanklin, with pencils by Neil Vokes, The Bat is one of those comics where it's really hard to tell whether the creators meant it to be serious or not. But considering the incredible amount of over-the-top 1990-style violence, I'm going to go ahead and vote for the former.

Anyway, The Bat is one Wesley Sharp, who--and stop me if you've heard this one--is leaving a showing of The Mark of Zorro one night in 1924 when he sees a young boy's parents get murdered in an alley, and decides that this is not a good thing. So, after getting the unnamed boy to safety, Wesley embarks upon a round-the-world journey to hone his crime-fighting skills, eventually returning home with the inexplicable nom-de-guerre and astonishingly high-collared outfit of The Bat, and goes off to fight crime.

After fifteen years of this, he's eventually strung up and shot, but thanks to a series of events involving a ring of slavers, a vampire, and his girlfriend's favorite necklace, he comes back from the dead just long enough to exact his revenge before he dies yet again. Except this time, his soul forms itself into a bat and flies off into the night and through a conveniently-located study window where some kid's waiting around for an omen.

This is, of course, largely irrelevant.

The real reason this guy makes it to the ISB? Simple: He has what is quite possibly The Single Greatest Catchphrase In Comics History:

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bill Mantlo: King of Awesome

After last night's discussion of Marvel's new Champions Classic trade and the righteousness that is Bill Mantlo, I'd like to offer further discourse proving that he is the single greatest Marvel comics writer of all time, courtesy of Incredible Hulk #290.

That's The Hulk punching MODOK in the face and telling him to back off his girlfriend. His girlfriend the undercover SHIELD agent who was just kidnapped by the Abomination, dressed up in a gold strapless bathing suit and tiara, and dropped into a giant bucket that turned her into MS. MODOK.

Further explanation should not be necessary.


More From The King of Awesome:
| The Incredible Hulk vs. Quasimodo |
| The Legion of Monsters |
| Incredible Hulk #300 |
| The Hypno-Hustler |

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Week In Ink: 6-21-06

Hey, you guys know what's awesome?

Comic Books.

So awesome, in fact, that I bought like eight million of them yesterday, which means I don't have time for witty banter to kick this mother off. Now get to it! It's the third week of June, Ghost Rider's fighting a herd of cattle, and I've got comic books to review!


52: Week Seven: I knew when we got into this whole thing that there was going to be some pretty rough art before it was over, but I honestly didn't expect it to show up before two months were out. Ken Lashley's pencils are obviously rushed in this issue, leading to some pretty remarkable inconsitencies, even between panels. Polite Scott has a few words up about Renee Montoya's cast, and in the span of two pages, Lois Lane's hairline migrates all over her head. It's a shame, because storywise, there's a lot to like in this issue, with Ralph "Emo Beard" Dibny's confrontation with Booster Gold and the senses-shatteringly sapphic first appearance of Kate Kane, and--you guessed it--The Return of MANTHRAX! Plus, the little headline in the paper about Catwoman and the pharmacy gave me untold joy. Seriously, though: History of the DCU has got to be stopped.


All-Star Superman #4: I can say with complete and utter certainty that this issue is one of my favorite comic books of all time.

Admittedly, I probably say that more than any human being alive, but in this case, there's no question. After all, largely thanks to the Showcase volumes DC's put out over the past year, I've developed a pretty heavy interest in Silver-Age Superman, and Jimmy Olsen's crazy adventures in particular. And while there's been a lot made of Grant Morrison's Silver-Age take on Superman with All-Star, the appeal isn't that he's writing "Silver-Age style" comics, it's that he's writing undeniably modern stories that are the logical extrapolations.

And this one's got it all, and that includes the Disguise Trunk. Jimmy--who came to work on a jetpack in All-Star Superman #1, which I didn't notice until my third time reading it--is the same "Mr. Action" reporter that broke up a paper bootlegging scam by posing as a lumberjack back in 1954 and tried to impress Lucy Lane by getting her to watch alien girls fight over him a thousand years in the future, only progressed logically to 2006, with the fun, futurist spin Morrison loves to use, and the absolutely gorgeous pencils of Frank Quitely. And that's not even getting into how he solves the problem of an evil Superman in a single moment that--for me, anyway--made every Superman comic for the past twelve years a little bit better. It's just astoundingly good.

Astonishing X-Men #15: The Hellfire Club storyline kicks into its necessary "high gear" phase, and it is all Joss Whedoned up, which, if you don't like Joss Whedon, is going to present a considerable problem. Fortunately, I'm pretty partial to the way the guy writes, and I thought this one was a hoot. It's the comic that we talked the most about at the store today, and aside from the fact that Colossus really should know better, I liked pretty much everything in it, especially the scenes with Hisako. Really, though, the clincher is the last page, which I somehow did not see coming. Even though it's completely and utterly telegraphed by every element of the story, and even though I'm incredibly familiar with the source material, I was completely and utterly blindsided. And that left me very, very pleased.

Birds of Prey #95: So is it just me, or does Lady Shiva look profoundly crosseyed on that cover? Anyway, an excellent end to the One Year Later story that features an old woman getting kicked in the face and Prometheus being a total badass, but with Joe Prado coming on as penciller just as I was getting used to Paolo Siquiera. Fill-ins, as I have said, make me nervous.

Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #3: Honestly, I'd rather he was drawing the next issue of All-Star Superman (and not, you know, a Robbie Williams album cover), but I think we had a pretty good thing going with the Frank Quitely covers for Bite Club. Other than that, another solid issue that's as enjoyable as the rest of the series--and considering that the other installments lack an all-girl shower brawl, probably moreso.

Captain America #19

Casanova #1: If you haven't had a chance to pick up Casanova, the bastard child of Fell and GØDLAND, trust me when I say this: It is dense. That's not a bad thing by any means, but seriously, there's a lot going on in this book, and all of it comes so fast that it's nearly impossible to let something sink in before the next High Concept comes swooping around the corner to smack you solidly in the face. And again: That's not a bad thing. And it's all part of Matt Fraction's design for the book, and while it came off a bit awkwardly for me at times, there's a lot of great stuff kicking around in there that's beautifully illustrated by Gabriel Bá, up to and including Fabula Berserko, who might just end up being the Sensational Character find of 2006. And honestly, when the worst thing I can say about a book that costs less than two bucks is that a lot happens in it, that's your cue to buy it, buster.

Conan #29: As I'm sure we're all aware by now, Conan is one of my favorite comics, and in a story that feels like a secret origin for the BPRD's recent frog-related troubles, Mike Mignola is able to perfectly capture what I love about the character. Because when Conan is faced with a giant talking albino demon toad, he doesn't freak out like lesser men who rely on the trappings of civilization. No, Conan just chucks a rock at the damn thing. That guy is awesome.

Conan: Book of Thoth #4

Eternals #1: I'm pretty surprised that Marvel put out the first issue of the new Eternals series before they released the big Jack Kirby Eternals hardcover. After all, not all of us are goth girls waiting patiently under our top hats for the next Sandman, and since I've never been able to sit down and read Kirby's Eternals, I was looking forward to getting familiar with the characters before Gaiman jumped on. Then again, it could be worse: I could've gone through the back issues to put together a run and ended up with the atrocious Chuck Austen pseudoporn Eternals. Anyway, as far as this one goes, the story's interesting and there are some fun parts (which mostly do not revolve around the characters referring to their websites), but aside from the fact that John Romita Jr.'s art is awesome, it didn't get me too terribly excited. Not that I won't be sticking around for the next one--JR Jr. drawing the Celestials is not something I can easily say no to--it's just that while it's enjoyable, it didn't do much for me.

Ex Machina #21

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1: Considering that it was consistently good for about a hundred and fifty issues--or longer, if you were into super-hero tax evasion and Velocity 9--The Flash is probably an intimidating book to write. And to be perfectly honest, there's nothing in this issue that makes me think Bilson, Demeo, and Lashley are up to the task. The art's better than Lashley's work on 52 this week, but not by much, and the story's so disjointed that I found myself checking to see if I was missing pages two or three times while I was reading it. Transitional scenes are nonexistent, and while I don't mind a first issue that leaves the reader with questions, I'm not a fan of not knowing why anything in the story is happening, right up until the issue comes to a sudden, grinding stop.

Giant-Size Hulk #1: Now that I've embraced the fact that I totally love Planet Hulk, I have another reason to buy this besides the Champions story! Plus, I've always been mildly curious about Hulk: The End, but only to the tune of about five bucks.

Iron Man #9: "Execute Program" continues to get better as each installment comes out, especially since Tony Stark being driven crazy by Warren Ellis technology certainly would explain why he's been a total dick to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

JSA: Classified #13: The best installment of the arc, but after four months of Paul Gulacy's plastic, emotionless people and Vandal Savage failing to do anything that catches my interest, I'm relieved that it's over and we can move a step closer to this Walt Simonson Wildcat story I've been hearing rumors of for a year.

Justice #6: Jean Loring wondering aloud what she'd do if the Atom wasn't around was pretty funny the first time, but it's the kind of joke that only works once. Alfred threatening to eat someone's brain, however, is funny no matter how many times I see it.

Manhunter #23: Excellent comics! But who would've thought Iron Munro would be a Hit It and Quit It All-Star?

Marvel Westerns: Outlaw Files: Those of you who keep up with this sort of thing might recall that the premise behind the Marvel Monsters handbook (from back in October) was that instead of standard Official Handbook entries, it was written from the perspective of Elsa Bloodstone's blog about monsters. It's an entertaining gimmick, but the Westerns handbook pulls the same trick a lot better, presenting the information as a series of letters and newspaper articles about the Marvel Western heroes, written in-character. It actually turns out to be the most entertaining handbook pieces I've ever read, especially when you get to the page that has capsule reviews for 27 movies based on the life of the Rawhide Kid--including the Mexican Wrestling movie version, Cabrito del Cuero en Verde Contra el Cerebro Mortal del Monstruo. It's highly enjoyable and well worth a read.

Noble Causes #21

Red Sonja #11: I forgot to mention it, but in the last issue of Red Sonja, our heroine teaches a young girl the art of stealthy revenge, and at one point paints mud on her face to better blend in with the forest. While wearing a bikini. Made of bright, shiny metal. Yeah, I know. It's great!

Robin #151: How exactly Cassandra Cain managed to get two shots out of a flintlock pistol, the world may never know. Regardless, since Adam Beechen's "One Year Later" run started, Robin has quickly become one of my favorite comics, and considering that this issue's pretty much nothing but Robin fighting a bunch of ninjas and the former Batgirl, that doesn't change this month.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #6

Shadowpact #2: Like I mentioned last month, I'm a sucker for a good "evil opposite" storyline. As George Takei proved beyond all doubt, there's just something intrinsically fun about seeing someone go up against their opposite number. And of course, when there's an evil opposite story that opens with Witchfire from the Power Company and Rex the Wonder Dog chilling at a campsite, well, that's the sort of thing that catapults it from "enjoyable" straight to "awesome" as far as I'm concerned. Bill Willingham does a great job with this one on both fronts, keeping the Shadowpact as the underdogs--which is no mean feat, considering they beat The Spectre--by setting up the Pentacle as a sharper, much more skilled, and in some cases terrifying version of the team. Excellent stuff.

Superman/Batman #27: Considering that Jeph Loeb has departed after 25 issues of nigh-unreadable fan-fiction, I figured I'd give the One Year Later Superman/Batman a shot. Sadly, it pretty much sticks to the Mark Verheiden mold and ends up not making a whole lot of sense, and, in a shocking twist, is revealed to be all a dream!

Yeah, they still make those.

I know, I was surprised too.

Anyway, it does feature the art of Kevin Maguire, who is easily one of my favorite artists of all time, and although there are a few odd coloring and inking choices to deal with in this one, it's still a pretty, pretty book.

Ultimates 2 #11: This might actually be the most exciting comic book I own. It's not just the last-page reveal, either--although again, it's something that was clearly telegrpahed that I managed to be completely and enjoyably blindsided by--but rather that Mark Millar's mastery of the Explodo is so powerful that he does the same kind of fist-clenching "Oh Snap!" moment like five times in this one issue alone. It's like the Die Hard of comics. But with Iron Man armor and Ultimate Swarm.


Amazing Joy Buzzards v.2

Champions Classic v.1: I'd hesitate to refer to any story with the Champions of Los Angeles that does not also involve a Nazi made of bees as "Classic," but I'll be damned if I'm not excited as hell to read this. Kevin has described it as a super-hero team based entirely on a bar bet, but all you really need to know is that it's the height of Bill Mantlo's raging insanity, set loose upon a world gone mad by Tony Isabella. What This Means To You: a gathering of heroes consisting of two mutants, a Russian super-spy, a Greek demigod, and a motorcycle-riding demon from Hell, and if you don't think that ranks with "the wheel" and "cheese" as one of the five greatest ideas in the history of mankind, then I've got some sour news for you, buster: Reading the ISB probably isn't going to work out for you.

Plus, I opened it to a random page and saw this:


Showcase Presents Superman v.2

Wonder Woman v.4: Destiny Calling